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Environmental News Made Simple
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Good morning curious.friends.

***BREAKING NEWS***
Yesterday evening the UK government made history by declaring a climate and ecological emergency in response to increasing pressure from climate activists. Jeremy Corbyn calls for a motion to 'set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the globe'. 

The question now - what does a climate emergency mean? Whatever the situation, you know we have gotcha covered! Stay tuned!

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To celebrate UK coffee week we take a closer look at a cup of the brown stuff and ask 'Could our venti-decaf-skinny mocha help save the rainforest?' Plus we put biodegradable shopping bags to the test. 
 
Reading time is 3:47 minutes.

Much love, team curious
Food & Drink

Could your venti-decaf-skinny-mocha help save the rainforest?

by Abigail Aldridge

What's Going On Here?

It’s #UKCoffeeWeek! Many of us love a cup of joe in the morning, but what if our morning coffee could help save the rainforest? Two Scottish entrepreneurs may have found a way that it can... 

What does my coffee have to do with the rainforest?
Revive Eco, created to ‘bring new life to coffee waste’, have come up with a new way to extract oil from used coffee grounds. They have found that the oil extracted from coffee grounds could be used in cosmetics pharmaceuticals, food and drink, household products as a replacement for palm oil. 

This is potentially huge. Palm oil is in the news a lot - and not for anything good! It’s hidden in the ingredients of many household items and foods (doritos, nutella, lipstick to name a few…). The issue with palm oil, as nicely demonstrated by Iceland’s banned Christmas TV ad, is that extracting it is devastating rainforests, and destroying the habitat of endangered species such as the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. 

IF this solution works, and brands get on board, this ‘coffee oil’ could help to ease the strain on the rainforest. With the UK alone producing 500,000 tonnes of coffee waste each year, there’ll be plenty of ‘coffee oil’ to go around.
 

So how long until there’s coffee in my nutella?

For Revive Eco, the focus is now to secure funding and get the process set up. They’re aiming to have a set up in Glasgow by summer 2020 - and hope that long term they can then roll out processing plants across Europe.

Zero Waste Scotland has given them £235,000, and on 9th May they’ll find out if they’ve secured a share of a £776,000 funding pot from the Chivas Venture Competition. 

Be Curious!

Want to help with the palm oil now? 

You might be tempted to avoid products with palm oil in, but boycotting palm oil might not be the answer. WWF Malaysia points out that it’s not palm oil that's the issue but the way it is currently obtained, and believe that boycotting it entirely could worsen the problem. We should instead be celebrating and supporting brands that are using palm oil sustainably. The WWF has a live Palm Oil Scorecard in which they rank 137 brands - an easy way for us to see who’s doing great, and who’s doing nothing at all...

You can follow Revive Eco’s journey and support them with their venture on Instagram. (While you’re there, you could follow us too ;)).
 

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Pollution

'Biodegradable' plastic bags not all they're cracked up to be

by  Conrad Langridge

What's Going On Here?

Scientists at the University of Plymouth have found biodegradable plastic bags aren't as biodegradable as they're supposed to be. The finding supports curious.earth concerns that 'biodegradable' labelling is misleading consumers and validating single use consumption. 
 

What does this mean?

Biodegradable plastics can be broken down by living organisms… but as the study shows it may take a rather long time for this to happen. Even “compostable” plastics, require specific conditions to break down.  

Compostable and biodegradable bags were left exposed to air, soil and sea, environments which they could potentially encounter if discarded as litter.

Results showed the compostable bag broke down within 3 months in water and 27 months in soil. The “biodegradable” bag remained fully intact after 3 years, maintaining enough strength to hold a bag of shopping.

Shall I stick to plastic bags then?

Oil-based plastic typically requires less energy to produce than plant-based plastic, as oil, the starting product, is still so abundant. However, breakdown in the natural environment is virtually non-existant. Summary: Energy Low - Waste Impact High

Plant-based bioplastics, tend to be more energy intensive as the starting product needs to be grown (e.g. sugar cane). This leads to competition against agriculture & has been attributed to deforestation. Adding to the worries biodegradable and compostable plastics cannot currently be recycled. Summary:  Energy High - Waste Impact Low(er)

Ultimately, the issue of the materials is something of a red herring as all materials have their environmental impact. Ultimately plastic is not the problem: single-use items are.

Be Curious!

It can be a bit of a minefield, but remember to keep a sense of perspective with the whole bag issue. You don’t need to buy a NEW cute tote bag. First up use the plastic bags you already have at home.

If you have plastic bags for life or tote bags, don't keep them under the sink or in the cupboard. Try keeping one in your day bag, strap one to your bike seat, or fold one up and keep it in your coat pocket! 

Finally... the scientists at The University of Plymouth have asked we thank the woman who donated the sheets of plastic for their experiments.  "Ta Pauline".

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Other news we found curious...

UK Parliament makes history as it declares ‘environment and climate change emergency’ - Independent
If we care about plastic waste, why won’t we stop drinking bottled water? - Guardian
Is worlds largest asset management company BlackRock, serious about sustainability? - GreenBiz
Ban cats from going outside to protect birds, says Royal Parks conservation officer - Telegraph
Climate change being fuelled by soil damage, report states - BBC
Abi Aldridge
NEWS WRITER
Conrad Langridge
NEWS WRITER
THANKS FOR READING

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